The price of poor employee engagement? Billions 

By David Drummond | Managing Editor for Southerly

An engaged employee is an effective one. Productivity is higher, they are happier, they’re better advocates of your business – in short, it brings better results for you.

But now a report conducted by the Gallup Organisation, an American consultancy company, has revealed the high price of poor employee engagement: between $450 and $550 billion. That’s how much businesses are losing right now due to poor employee engagement.

It’s an incredible figure, and rightly it’s got a few people sitting up and taking notice. Employee engagement really matters.

The report centres on the US market, but in the UK the problem is just as prescient. A report by the research firm ORC International placed the UK 18th out of 20 countries in their ranking of global employee engagement.

Between $450 and $550 billion – that’s how much businesses are losing

The effect on your bottom line

Employee disengagement sounds bad – the dent to your bottom line sounds even worse – but what does that actually mean, and how does it result in lost money?

If employees aren’t engaged, they aren’t actively involved in your company and their work. This translates to poor productivity and work that routinely falls below par. If employees don’t care, they won’t care what they produce. And if that’s the case, your customers won’t care about what you’re offering them. You don’t need us to explain to you that a lack of customers means a lack of profits.

So employee engagement is an important aspect of your business, and it’s one that you should be getting right. But most business owners already know this. A survey conducted by the Harvard Business Review found that 71% of people they spoke to ranked employee engagement as “very important to achieving overall organisational success”.

So what are they doing wrong?

Their employee engagement strategies haven’t changed in years

Stuck in place

For many businesses, the problem is not that they don’t know that it’s important, it’s that they’re stuck in the past – their employee engagement strategies haven’t changed in years.

A large proportion of companies are relying on tried and tested, stagnant forms of employee engagement and nothing else. Things like training courses, open door policies, flex-time and employee assistance programmes are the staples. This is not to say that these aren’t great initiatives and absolutely essential in a solid employee engagement strategy. But they can’t be the only parts. There has to be some evolution.

More alarming is the lack of progress when it comes to employee communication. The Mobile Trends in the Workplace survey found that 91% of companies believe the way they communicate with their employees impacts engagement. However, over 90% of companies rely only on email and face-to-face communication with staff. So, you may ask, what’s the problem with that?

The modern workforce

By 2025, Millennials will make up 75% of the workforce. They’re already making up a large part, in fact.

Capturing those Millennials’ attention and having them interact with your brand in the public space is a huge priority for many companies at the moment. But the battle shouldn’t be one just fought in your external marketing and communications. Businesses need to remember that their workforce is increasingly becoming dominated by Millennials.

And as much tireless research and study has shown, Millennials don’t communicate like the generations that came before them. This doesn’t mean completely eradicating email and face to face contact – these are still the primary methods of communication for any company, and likely will be for some time. But the best businesses are those that recognise that communication is changing, and if you want to engage you employees you need to be part of the change.

Millennials don’t communicate like the generations that came before them

What can you do to better employee engagement?

Create an intranet, and better yet, review and use it properly. It’s not enough to simply create one and expect it to work. Set goals that you can track and achieve with it, define which employees you want using it, and decide on how you want them to use it. The internet is a social place – people can voice their opinions in almost all corners of it. Your intranet should be the same. Make it a place where your employees can communicate with one another, not just a place where you communicate to them.

Once you have a solid bedrock such as an intranet in place you can start to look at a few other more modern techniques, and a large focus could be gamification – the process of adding game elements (like point scoring and competition) to certain tasks to spur their completion by staff.

A 2014 report conducted by Technology Advice found that 54% of employees would be much more likely to perform a task if it had game elements. Adding in gamification elements to your employee engagement could have great results – especially among a Millennial audience. Millennials want to have a say and a choice in their careers. If you are adding in interactive tasks with a differing outcome based on their input, you’ve given them buy in and a “choose your own adventure” approach to their work. If they feel that they’re actively involved – well, then that’s just a synonym for engagement, isn’t it?

Making your entire employee engagement strategy a game probably wouldn’t be a wise idea, but it could form a part. What’s clear is that as the workforce of today changes, and the methods of communication we use evolve, employee engagement strategies have to change with them. Because if they don’t, you could be facing billions and billions of pounds in lost revenue.

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